Friday, June 25, 2010

UN war crimes panel chief 'criticises Sri Lanka ban'

The head of a UN panel probing alleged war crimes during Sri Lanka's civil war has criticised a decision by Colombo to block him and colleagues from entering the country, a report said Friday.

Marzuki Darusman, a former Indonesian attorney general, was named Tuesday to lead a team advising UN chief Ban Ki-moon on possible war crimes committed in Sri Lanka during its 37-year separatist war that ended in 2009.

"Everybody loses out if we cannot go to Sri Lanka, it will make it harder for the truth to be unearthed," Darusman told the BBC, describing Sri Lanka's decision to ban them as "most unfortunate."

His remarks came after Sri Lanka's External Affairs minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris said Colombo will not grant visas to members of the panel.

The panel was "totally unnecessary," Peiris said Thursday.

He said Sri Lanka had announced its own commission into the end the war, which pitched government troops against Tamil Tiger separatists, and post-conflict ethnic reconciliation.

The UN panel was set up after international pressure for an independent probe into allegations that Tamil civilians were killed by government troops and that surrendering rebels were also executed in cold blood.

The United States, which has been pushing for a war crimes probe, urged Colombo to "take advantage" of the UN initiative.

Ban has asked his three-member panel to complete its work in four months.

When the panel was named on Tuesday, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky emphasised it had a mostly consultative role and that "primary responsibility for investigating rests with the authorities of Sri Lanka".

However, many diplomats see the UN's move as a precursor to a full-blown war crimes investigation.

The UN itself has said that at least 7,000 Tamil civilians perished in the first four months of 2009 before the government secured final victory over the Tigers that May.


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